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Learning by heart

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Generations of teachers share their faith through Catholic schools

HARTINGTON - When Ray Weier started teaching at Hartington’s Cedar Catholic High School 52 years ago, he hoped to impart mathematics knowledge along with a deep understanding of God’s love to each of his students - just like his teachers did for him.

Taking teacher roll call at Holy Trinity and Cedar Catholic, it’s evident that heritage has been passed down through generations and continues today.

Weier taught Nancy Hochstein who now teaches fifth grade at Holy Trinity. Hochstein taught JoAnne Hamilton who now teaches vocal music at both Holy Trinity and Cedar Catholic. And Hamilton taught James Kaiser who now teaches Theology at the high school.

While there’s a connection between four generations of Hartington’s Catholic school teachers, generations of families have benefitted from academic excellence and the faith family for the past 120 years.

“Coming to teach at Cedar Catholic felt just like coming home to me,” Weier said. “It has been especially rewarding to see some of my former students come back to teach in a Catholic school system.”

It’s a cause for celebration as this week marks National Catholic Schools Week - recognized annually in the United States since 1974 for carrying out the church’s mission to pass on the faith from one generation to the next. This week’s theme is “Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.”

Special festivities will continue throughout the week at Holy Trinity Elementary and Cedar Catholic High School in Hartington, as well as East-West Catholic Elementary School in Bow Valley.

“I believe we have a chance to be real disciples of Christ ... to have the opportunity to help kids in their faith, to help in the community’s good times and bad times, in all different situations in life,” Hamilton said. “It’s all valuable.”

Kaiser said he feels fortunate to have grown up as a student in Catholic Schools - from Kindergarten at East Catholic in Bow Valley, the rest of his elementary years at West Catholic in Fordyce, and then Cedar Catholic High School, graduating in 2015.

“I always felt like the ultimate plan was to one day move home and teach in the area but I didn’t expect to be at Cedar this early,” he said. “Many teachers who taught me are still here and I always felt lucky that I had them.”

Kaiser experienced music taught by Hamilton his seventh through senior years and remembers the vocal music contests under her lead.

“I remember going to other competitions and our school had twice as many students out (for music) than other places,” he said. “It seemed like another way we could show off our talents and Mrs. Hamilton was good at putting up with 60-plus students at the time.”

Hamilton said she hopes to have the same impact on students that Weier and Hochstein had on her formative years at school.

“He is irreplaceable. I did not like geometry very well but I survived with him as a teacher,” she said of Weier. “Mrs. Hochstein, she has a special place in my heart. You have those favorite teachers growing up and she was one of them.”

The two women grew their relationship from teacher-student to colleagues and friends over the years. Hochstein’s students are always amused to learn that she taught Hamilton, as well as some of their own parents.

Catholic Schools will always be a place where people are welcomed with open arms, Hamilton said, from teachers to students and their families, and the community as a whole.

“I’ve really thought about it and realize how lucky I am that someone who taught me Math and someone who taught me English gave me the opportunity to pass on the love of music and it’s the circle of life,” Hamilton said. “It’s been a really rewarding experience to be here and to teach alongside them.”